By Pat Timlin
This season for Northwestern has been one they will soon hope to forget. Coming into Wednesday night, the last time they had won a game was in January. After losing multiple close games on the final possession and getting blown out on the road, it seemed like nothing would go right for Chris Collins’ team. But Collins knew he had to keep his team focused.
“Until you’re told you don’t have any more games, you get ready to play and compete to win.”
That is precisely the type of energy that his team carried into Wednesday’s game against Ohio State. The Wildcats beat the Buckeyes 68-50 behind a solid defensive team effort and a dominant performance by Dererk Pardon, who finished the game leading all scorers with 20 points and tacked on 13 rebounds.
It started off all Wildcats in the first half, as they opened up to a 10-2 run thanks to a stifling defense effort. Vic Law found himself involved on both ends of the floor, making two tough shots and locking down multiple Buckeye players.
Ohio State was able to gain control of their scoring woes and cut the lead to as little as four points heading into the under-eight media time out. However, Northwestern was able to do something they haven’t done all year: score off the bench.
It started when Barret Benson went on a tear. The junior center from Willowbrook had two quick baskets, highlighted by a two handed slam, along with solid defense marked by two blocks and a steal. His terrific stretch was noticed by both Collins and Benson’s frontcourt partner.
“I think that’s the best stretch Barret has had in a long time.” said Pardon.
Then A.J. Turner chipped in five points of his own and the ‘Cats were able to extend their lead behind 12 points off the bench, going into the locker up 28-17.
Ohio State came out in the second half looking to take over the game. A trio of three-point plays by the Buckeyes brought them to within seven, and they continued to chip at the lead Northwestern was trying so hard to hold onto. With just 8:57 left on the clock, the ‘Cats were only up by five. Just a minute later, they were back up by 15. Northwestern’s 10-0 run was bookended by Pardon, who started with a putback layup and capped it off with an and-1 slam. These types of runs perfectly characterized the team’s efforts to prevent the lead from slipping away.
The Wildcats get ready for their final contest of the regular season, as they celebrate Senior Day against Purdue on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.